Time Course of Attentional Biases Toward Body Shapes in Women Who Are Overweight or Obese

  • Zhenyong LyuEmail author
  • Panpan Zheng
  • Zhan Wang
Original Article


Although attentional bias toward body-related stimuli has been implicated as a vulnerability factor for body image disturbances, the time course of attentional biases toward body shapes in women who are overweight or obese is not clear. Using a dot-probe task and a between-subjects design, we assessed attentional biases (including facilitated attention, delayed disengagement, and avoidance) toward fat and thin body images in women who were overweight or obese (body mass index, BMI ≥ 25 kg/m2; n = 25) and normal-weight controls (BMI < 25 kg/m2; n = 25). Three stimulus presentation times were used: 100 ms, 500 ms, and 2000 ms. Women who were overweight or obese reported a stronger relative preference for Thin over Neutral images. All participants showed attentional bias toward thin body images in the initial orientation (100 ms) and later avoidance (2000 ms) stage, whereas only the women who were overweight or obese showed a bias toward fat body-related images when displayed for 500 ms, indicating difficulty disengaging from fat body-related stimuli. Slower attentional disengagement from fat body stimuli might be a cognitive marker for body image disturbance in women who are overweight or obese.


Attentional biases Overweight/obesity Dot-probe task Body-related stimuli 



This study was supported by Chinese National Natural Science Foundation (Grant No: 31800925) and the Nanhu Scholars Program of XYNU and the Humanities and Social Sciences Project for the Education Department of Henan Province (Grant No: 2018-ZDJH-282). The authors would like to thank Ming Xu, Li Ma and Yao Ge for their enthusiasm and invaluable assistance in recruiting and testing the participants of this study. We thank three anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful comments, which helped us to improve this article.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Zhenyong Lyu, Panpan Zheng and Zhan Wang declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (national and institutional). Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Animal Rights

No animal studies were carried out by the authors for this article.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Education ScienceXinyang Normal UniversityXinyangChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Cognition and PersonalitySouthwest UniversityChongqingChina

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